Why stains keep coming back on a carpet and how to prevent it happening again.

Stains coming back in carpet is a very common problem. If you have had a carpet spillage or accident and tried to clean it up but the stain keeps reappearing, this article will help explain why the stain keeps returning and what you may be able to do about it.

If you have had a spot or stain on your carpet you may have used a stain remover or even dish washing liquid in an attempt to remove the stain only for the stain to reappear a few days or even a few weeks later. These carpet stains can return either just after the carpet has dried or perhaps take several days to return. Despite all your efforts it can be very disappointing to see these stains re-emerge. It could be you had a professional cleaning company to clean the carpet but the same problem has occurred.


why do stains come back on carpet


stain wick back on carpet

Carpet wicking

So why do stains keep coming back on my carpet?

The answer is that after a carpet has been affected by a stain, the spillage could well have penetrated into the backing of the carpet and even the underlay. When an effort is made to clean the stain, either the dirt, detergent or stain remover that was used remains deep in the carpet backing and comes back to the surface as the carpet dries. When the remaining dirt, stain remover or detergent residue travels back up the carpet fibers, it is known as carpet wicking or Wick Back. This wick back occurs as the over the course of a a few hours or perhaps several weeks.


Carpet stain remover could be the cause of reoccurring carpet stains

One of the causes of reoccurring carpet stains can be when ”off the shelf” product or carpet stain remover is used. The stain remover is applied and the stain treated and hey presto, the stain has gone! The problem with most stain removing products is that they can contain substances which are sticky and this substance can re attract soil when the carpet has dried. The sticky residue or substance can remain on the carpet and perhaps after several days or weeks of use, the carpet turns dull or or looks like the stain has returned.


stain coming back to surface of carpet


detergent attracts dirt on carpet

Detergent or dish washing liquid can cause stains to come back on carpet

Another very common cause of stains returning on carpet is when dish washing liquid or detergent is applied to remove the stain such as Dawn or Fairy liquid. This technique will certainly leave a sticky residue in the carpet and will also soak into the backing if too much is used. It may be beneficial to use a very small amount of detergent when mixing with water but care must be taken not to over do it.If too much is used, The sticky residue will almost always turn into a dark mark as it will attract the dirt when the carpet is used with ensuing foot traffic.


Oil based products can be the cause of stains

When products such as cooking oil, oil based foods, baby oil and oil based cosmetics are spilled onto the carpet, these can seep down into the backing and also the carpet underlay or padding. These oils based substances can be extremely difficult to remove. On many occasions these substances can almost always resurface if there has been a substantial spillage despite the best efforts to remove them. Further down the page we will see how this may be remedied although sometimes it may be necessary to replace the carpet in some circumstances.


oil products attracts dirt on carpet


using hot water extraction equipment to remove stain

What’s the best way of removing reoccurring stains on carpet?

The answer is, there are several methods that may work to remove the stain.

First rinse the area of carpet affected by the stain with fresh water using with a sprayer. Do not over wet or soak the carpet, only lightly dampen it. Then apply a non coloured towel over the area to draw out the residue or spillage and leave for 10 minutes to soak up the moisture. Repeat this process several times. This method may dissolve any detergent on the carpet surface and may help stop the stain from reoccurring.

If the stain or detergent has soaked right down into the carpet backing it may perhaps be impossible to draw the stain up. It may be nessesary to use professional carpet cleaning equipment to draw the residue out of the carpet. A professional carpet cleaning company will have the necessary hot water extraction equipment to draw out the stain or residue from deep in the carpet.


Lifting carpet to remove reoccurring stain

If the reoccurring carpet stain cannot be removed using the above methods, it may perhaps be necessary to lift the carpet from the floor. The carpet backing can then be cleaned including underlay or carpet padding. If the spillage has also reached the floor, this can be cleaned at the same time. If using this method is successful, leave the carpet and underlay to dry before refitting.

In some cases it can be very difficult if not impossible to remove some types of oils from carpet such as baby oil, cooking oil and heavy spillages of cosmetics and creams as these can be very difficult to dissolve even by way of using cleaning solvents to break down the residue.


lift carpet to remove stain


coffee stain remover

General tips and advice about carpet stain removal

Scrubbing and wetting:

Avoid wetting a carpet too much. Over wetting can cause the cellulose in the carpet backing to dissolve and wick up the fibers and turn the carpet brown, permanently damaging the carpet. Always use a suitable sprayer where the amount can be controlled and lightly apply dampen the carpet which will allow the stain remover to do it’s work.

Scrubbing or rubbing too much can also damage the carpet pile. If it was necessary to scrub the carpet to remove any dried or caked on dirt, carefully trim off any fluffed carpet pile with scissors or a sharp blade when dry.

Always pre-test ”off the shelf” stain removers in an inconspicuous area beforehand. Some types of stain removers can bleach or affect the colour of the carpet.


Using dish washing liquid to remove stains from carpet.

It is often a mistake to use dish washing liquid or detergent to try and remove stains from a carpet. Used in a very small amount and diluted sufficiently, it probably won’t cause much of a problem. Another problem is soaking the carpet which can often damage a carpet.

The problem occurs because the dish washing liquid is very difficult to remove from the carpet afterwards. The residue from the liquid is sticky and this residue will attract more dirt when dry. The washing liquid will stay sticky when dry and continue to attract dirt when the carpet is used. This is often the reason why many stains come back afterwards and the area gradually turns into a stain again. The washing liquid will also stay in the backing of the carpet and slowly wicks back up the fibers and continues to attract dirt.

tea stain remover